Editor’s Note: This fantasy hockey feature will run each Monday (this week is a rare exception) on NESN.com. It will showcase which players fantasy owners should sit and start on their team. We also will post a weekly fantasy recap each Sunday highlighting the stars, duds and best waiver wire pickups.
With nearly three weeks of the 2014-15 NHL season in the books, we have a better sense of which young players and rookies are likely to maintain their scoring success from the start of the campaign.
Several of those players are featured in our latest look at the must-start and must-sit players of the week. As always, superstars are omitted.
Tyler Toffoli, Center, Los Angeles Kings
The 22-year-old Kings forward is tied for second in scoring with 12 points (four goals, eight assists), including a plus-11 rating (which is second-highest among all forwards), three power-play points and a short-handed goal in eight games. In fact, Toffoli is the only top-10 scorer who’s playing 14 minutes or less per game — the other nine guys are averaging at least 17:36 of ice time.
We shouldn’t expect Toffoli’s scoring production to drop off anytime soon. He plays on the most productive line in hockey alongside Jeff Carter and Tanner Pearson and has some favorable matchups this week against the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Radim Vrbata, Winger, Vancouver Canucks
Vancouver’s top free-agent signing of the summer has made a smooth transition to the team’s top line alongside Henrik and Daniel Sedin. Any player who plays with the Sedin twins should be started in all types of fantasy leagues, and Vrbata is no exception. He’s tallied 10 points (five goals, five assists) in eight games, including five power-play points (two goals, three assists) and 35 shots on goal.
Jaden Schwartz, Winger, St. Louis Blues
The former first-round draft pick finally is living up to his potential in St. Louis.
Schwartz has tallied eight points (five goals, three assists) in seven games, including a plus-2 rating and three power-play points in 16:35 of ice time per game. Schwartz should be started in all fantasy leagues because his role and ice time should increase as long as top-line center Paul Stastny is out of the lineup with a shoulder injury.
Brian Elliott, Goaltender, St. Louis Blues
The Blues still don’t know if Jake Allen can be the full-time starting netminder this season, and veteran Brian Elliott has done a nice job this season in an attempt to prove he deserves the majority of the starts. Elliott is 2-2-1 with a 1.77 goals against average with a .922 save percentage in five appearances. The Blues allow the second-fewest shots per game (23.4) this season, which makes life easy for Elliott on most nights.
Brad Marchand, Winger, Boston Bruins
Marchand has scored just one goal with two assists in three games this season. He’s failed to score a goal at even strength and is a minus-1 with 16 PIM. Fantasy owners should bench Marchand until he consistently provides scoring production. As a three-time 20-goal scorer, it shouldn’t take too much longer for him to get going.
Nathan MacKinnon, Center, Colorado Avalanche
It’s not easy to sit a player as talented as MacKinnon, but he’s struggled offensively this season. The reigning Calder Trophy winner hasn’t scored a goal yet and has four assists in nine games. MacKinnon also is a minus-6 with 24 shots on goal and only two power-play points. The Avalanche have struggled as a team, but it’s too risky to start MacKinnon over centers who are providing better scoring production on a more consistent basis.
Dustin Brown, Winger, Los Angeles Kings
Brown isn’t an elite scorer, but fantasy owners expected more than one goal, zero assists, an even plus/minus and 16 shots in eight games. The Kings captain only is worth starting if your team’s depth on the wings is thin or if there aren’t many games scheduled on a particular night.
Sergei Bobrovsky, Goaltender, Columbus Blue Jackets
Bobrovsky won the Vezina Trophy after the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign, and he’s struggled to return to that form since. He’s 4-4-0 with a disappointing 2.80 goals against average and a .908 save percentage this season. Columbus also gives up 30.9 shots per game, which doesn’t make it easy for Bobrovsky. Starting him is too risky right now.
Photo by Gary Wiepert/Associated Press
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